Television personalities constantly remind us that September 11 changed
our world forever. They say that the world will never be the same after
September 11. But what are the changes and what do they mean?
What events have most changed our world in our lifetime? Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001? The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941? The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, that led to World War I and the collapse of the great world empires? More important, what event has most changed your own life for better or worse?
No event in human history has had an impact on the world like the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit to all people. How we measure time, our ongoing revision and reassessment of human values and spirituality, and many dimensions of art, literature, architecture, society and culture all flow from the impact made by Jesus.
Jesus Included Everybody
The one most consistent theme of the story of Jesus in the Gospels is that Jesus included everybody. The outcasts and rejected people who did not keep the details of the Law, the poor, the sick, the despised all were loved and accepted by Jesus. Religion may take the exclusive rejecting posture of judgmental legalism, but Jesus never did. The word "whosoever" in John 3:16 has become the name of this powerfully effective web site that has encouraged and informed multitudes of LGBT people for several years.
Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and hundreds of other social activists and freedom fighters have drawn on the example and teachings of Jesus to move all of us forward in human progress. New age theologians and cutting-edge teachers and writers in the field of spiritual studies still focus on Jesus, as does the "Jesus Seminar" and a steady stream of newly researched television documentaries on Jesus and Christianity.
We have to take a fresh look at the Bible and the abusive use of religion to condemn and destroy GLBT people and all other misunderstood minorities. Biblical literalism and legalism both are idolatrous religions, and without logical objective challenges, they will continue to cripple the spiritual lives of millions of God's children.
When Jesus came down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week of his life, the crowds shouted praise and adoration: "Hosanna in the highest; blessed is the one who comes in the name of God!" The religious leaders demanded that Jesus should tell the people to be quiet. Jesus replied that if the people were quiet, "the stones will cry out!" The world has never been able to ignore Jesus.
Jesus has been terribly misrepresented and distorted by many forms of religion and politics, but seldom ignored. How have you come to your present view of Jesus? How has Jesus made a difference in your life? What kind of impact has Jesus had on you?
Because the Christian religion has been used so viciously against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual people, the GLBT community has often avoided Jesus and anything associated with the religion that claims to follow Jesus. The abusive use of the Bible and religion against Gay and Lesbian people has discredited traditional Christianity and has created a great gulf of hostility and alienation that hinders spiritual healing for millions of people.
While I was visiting my Mother in Laurens, S.C., recently, I had a sudden revelation that deeply moved me. I was studying through the syllabus that I had written for my course on The Gospel of Luke at Baptist College. I always prepared in great detail for every course ahead of time. The syllabus included my basic research and applications of the inclusive themes of Luke in everyday life. I was using my own studies to prepare for my forthcoming book of lessons on Jesus based primarily on Luke.
Then, for the first time, I noticed the date of the syllabus. It was spring 1981. I had already resigned from Baptist College by the time the course got started. The lessons that I am preparing for our GLBT community are based on my research and preparation for the course in Luke that I prepared but never taught!
The Gospel of John is the basis for the second half of the Jesus lessons, and my research and writing for the inclusive themes in John were prepared several years ago for Baptist Sunday School literature. While I was writing my lessons on the Gospel of John, the Senior Editor at the Sunday School Board called me to tell me that because of the rumors that I was gay, he had to withdraw my contract to do the lessons. So the second half of my Jesus lessons will also be based in part on work that I did for Southern Baptists and never saw printed and used!
Now is the time for the powerful Jesus message of inclusive affirming love in Luke and John to become alive and convincing for GLBT people and everybody else alienated and oppressed by religion.
Jesus is not the problem. Religious distortions and misuse of Jesus to teach legalism and prejudice is the problem. My mission is to liberate Jesus from the clutches of religious abuse and misinformation. The real Jesus is relevant and convincing in our present world and in the emerging tomorrows that lie before us. We are seeking a realistic logical objective vision of Jesus for the twenty-first century and beyond. Jesus is not out of date, but abusive religion is.
Accurate information about Jesus is within reach. Careful objective realistic study of Gospel material and a lively sense of the presence of the Spirit of God working within us can combine with our own God given humanity in the image of God to produce a level of relevance, truth and tranquility about Jesus that deserves attention and can change our world.
Jesus was practical and person-centered. Practical application of the Jesus event to the issues and challenges that we face in our personal lives can be both healing and encouraging. Spirituality that makes us happy and healthy is available through the teachings and attitudes of the real Jesus of history and faith. Nobody has a private claim on Jesus. Jesus belongs to the entire human race and not to any special self-appointed defenders and protectors of the holy faith! Nobody owns Jesus, especially not the churches.
In liberating Jesus from abusive religious distortions, we are liberating ourselves.
Copyright © 2002 by the author
All Rights Reserved
Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse
John Shelby Spong
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